Jump to video!
Gaeng Hung Lay is one of the most iconic dishes of Northern Thailand, and arguably one of the tastiest! Pork belly and pork ribs are slowly stewed in a WHOLE bunch of herbs and spices. The result is tender fatty pieces of pork that has been entirely permeated by the rich and aromatic sauce. It is a dish to impress, and though it takes time, most of the process is hands-off!
This dish came to Northern Thailand via Myanmar, which in turn has a lot of Indian influences on their cuisine. This is why there are a lot of spices in this recipe, and why you can use Indian garam masala which you can buy from Indian grocery stores instead of making your own hung lay curry powder.
Tamarind: Everything you need to know
Pork Leg Stew Recipe (kao ka moo)
Watch The Full Video Tutorial!
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video below to ensure success - and if you enjoy the show, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Thank you!
Gaeng Hung Lay - Northern Pork Belly Curry แกงฮังเล
- Yield: 4 servings
Hung Lay Curry Paste (see note)
- 8-10 g dried mild red chilies, plus some spicier ones to taste (see note)
- 5 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup chopped shallots
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom half only, chopped
- 5 slices galangal
- 2-inch pc turmeric (or 1 ½ tsp powdered turmeric)
- 2 Tbsp hung lay curry powder (recipe below, or use garam masala)
- 1 tsp fermented shrimp paste (gapi)
- 1 lb pork belly, cut into big chunks
- 1 lb pork spare rib tips, chopped
- ¼-⅓ cup tamarind paste
- 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar or palm sugar
- 1-2 tsp black soy sauce or dark soy sauce (optional, you can add more or less to get the colour you like)
- 1 ½ - 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 head garlic (peeled, but keep cloves whole)
- ½ cup pearl onions or Thai small shallots
- ¼-⅓ cup julienned ginger
Hung Lay Curry Powder
- 1 8-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp ground cloves or 3 pc whole cloved
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp fennel
- 5 pc white cardamom
Make Hunglay Curry Powder:
- For whole spices, toast them in a dry saute pan until aromatic and darkened slightly. You can combine spices of similar size and toast them at the same time.
- Then combine all spices in a coffee grinder or blender and grind into a powder.
- Once made, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. You will have more than you need for this recipe, so feel free to use it as rubs, marinades, or on vegetables!
Make the curry paste:
- Grind dried chilies into a powder in a coffee/spice grinder, removing the seeds if you want to reduce the heat.
- If using an immersion blender: combine lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, shallots, garlic and shrimp paste, and blend into a paste. Add the ground dry spices and blend just to mix.
- If using a mortar and pestle: start by pounding lemongrass and galangal into a fine paste. Then add turmeric and pound until fine, then add shallots and garlic until fine. Then add the shrimp paste and ground dry spices and pound to mix.
- If using a regular blender: combine lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, shallots, garlic and shrimp paste, and blend into a paste. If it's too thick you can add a little water to get it going, but only add as much as needed. Pour
- Add the dried chilies and the hung lay curry powder and blend just until well combined.
Make the curry:
- Preheat a wok or large pot over medium heat, do not add any oil as there will be a lot of pork fat rendered. Add the pork belly pieces in one layer, and without crowding the pan, and let them sear until well browned on 4 sides. They will stick at first but once they are browned they will release from the pan.
- Add the pork ribs and give it a quick toss. Then add the curry paste and toss to coat all pieces of pork well. Once the paste is well distributed and it has had a couple of minutes to fry in the pork fat, add water just until it barely covers the pork.
- Add fish sauce, black soy sauce, tamarind and sugar, and cook for 1 hour 45 mins to 2 hours, loosely covered, until the pork is fork tender.
- Towards the last 20 minutes, check the amount of liquid, and if it's very soupy, uncover the pot completely to allow liquid to evaporate. You want the sauce to be thick and rich in the end.
- Once pork is tender add julienned ginger, whole garlic and pearl onions and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the garlic is tender. You can add a little more water at any point if it gets to dry.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Garnish with extra fresh julienned ginger if desired and serve with rice, enjoy! This curry can also be made in advance and kept in the fridge, and it'll keep well in the fridge for at least a week.
- No time to make the curry paste? Here's a "cheat" by combining 3-4 Tbsp store bought red curry paste with 2 Tbsp hung lay curry powder or garam masala.
- Dried chilies: I use dried guajillo peppers for colour because they're mild, and then add a few dried arbol or Thai chilies to adjust the heat. In Thailand, the mild dried chilies you're looking for is spur chilies or "prik chee fa."
Keywords: curry, Thai curry, pork belly, hung lay
Hi Pailin,no peanuts?
Not usually, but you can add them if you like them.
Amazing! The instructions are easy to follow and the results delicious. We were sad that the only restaurant in town with this dish closed down, but this recipe fills that gap.
Substitute for pearl onions and shrimp paste please. I have the rest of the ingredients 🙁
I lived in Chiang Mai for a while and when I returned to the US, this was probably the dish I missed the most but I couldn't find it at any Thai restaurants. I learned to make it using this recipe and it tastes exactly how I remember it. Thank you so much for this recipe!
Fabulous recipe. I have made this several times. I use pickled garlic instead of fresh garlic to give it an extra depth. This curry is rich as opposed to the brightness of other Thai curries.
Thank you for giving all of us this recipe.
Hi Pailin; is it possible to hydrate the dried chillis first and then blend it with the rest of the ingredients for this recipe? This is how we do it for most South East Asian curries.
You can but there is no need to rehydrate them if you're going to use a coffee grinder to grind the chilies. We only hydrate them to soften if we're going to pound them by hand.
Please clarify regarding the cinnamon in your hung lay curry powder mix.
Is it an 8 inch long cinnamon stick?
being a lover of both indian and thai food i had to have a go at this, i wasn't disappointed, a very complex taste, served with sticky rice, sai oua, grilled pork marinated in turmeric, garlic and galangal, pork crackling and a dynamite chilli ketchup dipping sauce.
Delicious recipe. I may have overdone it with the tamarind paste slightly. How tangy is it traditionally made? Will recreate in future to perfect it better. Other specific recs for use for the curry powder?
It's not very tangy at all. It shouldn't taste sour, the tamarind is there to "brighten" the flavour, making the richness less heavy. The curry powder can be used anywhere you'd use any curry powder! Try my "gaeng ho" recipe, a glass noodle stir fry which also uses this curry powder.
Maybe its a difference w the tamarind paste then. I remember a similar thing when i attempted your pad thai recipe. I made it work it work tho. Suppose my next question would be how spicy should it be? I used both guajillo and arbol peppers. Seeds removed. But used a bit more sugar to compensate for the tamarind. The curry paste was def spicy, but at the end of it, by 2yr old was drinking the curry like soup... he has been a lil adjusted to spicy thinga tho
Quite a unique curry to try, the ginger and whole garlic cloves make it different from other Thai curries.